PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Surrender


(A reflection from a talk by A.V.)

“What does it take to surrender to God?

“It takes embracing His holy will. Note the difference between ‘accepting’ and embracing’. Surrendering is an all-or-nothing thing. Either you give your all wholeheartedly or not at all. ‘Accepting’ is being forced into it. You don’t love God and feel trapped, choking, possessed.

“Surrendering has to be an all-or-nothing decision, because God Himself is an all-or-nothing God. Didn’t He give His only Son out of His love for us, to save us?”

***

I’ve always seen myself as ambitious, owing to the gifts I thought I had, and the many potentials I hallucinated about. I had so many interests, so many passions in life. I wanted to see the world, discover the secrets of life.
And I felt that around age 20, I was too young to concern myself with things like God and eternal life. I was at the stage where I was weighing my options, preoccupied about the perfect career path, and looking far and wide prospecting for my chances at a better life.

This self-directed outlook in life is naturally one that’s scared of God’s will.

It didn’t help that whenever I read about the lives of model Christians, the saints and martyrs, surrendering to God’s will seems often a violent and bloody thing.

You could just imagine how I strained to avoid thinking about God seriously, let alone surrendering to Him, let alone embracing His horrible will.

Which brings me to my old habit of resisting the word of God whenever I see an open Bible beckoning and those daily Bible reflections I evade the moment I chance upon them in newspapers. Back then, I would wince and shudder at the thought of laying my eyes on the Book. Deep in my heart, I believed in God, but what if my fears were true? That He preached a gospel too impossible for human beings to follow? That unconditional love, including the ability for a considerable amount of suffering, is the only way to eternal life? That loving God means forsaking all - earthly love, career, my very life? The life stories of saints were certainly scary, too bitter a pill to swallow, given my age and general predilections. My sort of prayer then was like St. Augustine’s plea prior to his conversion, “Lord, make me pure but not yet.”

But then it occurred to me that I was already being called even as I was in denial, and His call was deafening by the year. Things would conspire to bring me into the 'renewed life.' “If I don’t do it now, when should I?”

Indeed, fear and hesitation gave way to an opposite kind of rationalization: God is my ultimate destiny anyway, no matter where I hide myself. (“My soul would never rest until it rests in You,” St. Augustine put it.) Then the parade of beautiful revelations came: God turns out to be sweet, loving, kind, and merciful, meeting you where you are, at your own level and pace. He only has the best intentions for His creatures, He intends to introduce heaven even while we’re still here on earth. We are created not as automatons, but as free beings, gently invited to join Him in His kingdom, with the power to choose between Him and kind of attractions offered by the world, which is under Satan’s reign.

It turns out it’s not that hard to surrender at all, there’s nothing wrong with embracing His will when I know that it is perfect, He knows the desires of my heart, He knows what’s best for me, and His will is always ultimately for my own good.

***

“Lord, now that I’ve surrendered myself to You, I pray for faith and perseverance, that I may endure anything that comes my way. If You find anything in me that is not in accord with Your will, I submit it under Your Lordship; may You take control of it. Thwart, foil, frustrate any of the plans I carry out without Your consent. Destroy all things that are not pleasing to Your sight. I’m no longer given to pursue blind ambition and I commit my life to You, consulting You in all the decisions I have to face. If I find myself worn out and complaining, which betrays my act of surrender and contradicts “the fervor of my first love,” kindly remind me of Your promise, and my commitment as well. Just give me hope and keep me hoping until the end. Amen.”

1995


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